The Great Recession has affected millennials during their early adult lives graduating from high school and college and trying to enter the workforce in worst employment landscape since the great depression. Before the Great Recession millennials were on their way to being a productive part of the economy with 50% employed full-time. Four years later that number decreased to 41%—all while older generations actually started working in greater numbers. Therefore job opportunities that would have opened up for new young graduations have remained filled by the older workers desperate try to make up losses in their housing equity and retirement accounts before they retired.
The millennial generation has become the most educated generation yet they too often return to jobs that they would have had during high school or take unpaid internships. This hurts the future earnings of these young adults who are trying to establish themselves in the workforce—and it hurts the numerous high schoolers looking for part-time work. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is 8.8%. The underemployment rate is way up at 18.3% with an astonishing 260,000 college graduates making minimum wage or below.
On top of the lack of employment and good jobs this generation is being burdened by large student debt. To increase their employability in a dynamic global economy millennials have attended college and graduate school at a higher rate than previous generations. Tuition has increased almost 600% from 1980 to 2010 and student loan debt has nearly quadrupled in a decade from 2003-2012. This is especially alarming because private student loan debt is not easily discharged in bankruptcy.
It is not an issue of the millennial generation obtaining useless degrees or being unprepared for the labor force. People educated in the STEM fields and gaining professional degrees are also struggling:
“In the United States, nine percent of computer science graduates are unemployed, and 14.7 percent of those who hold degrees in information systems have no job. Graduates with degrees in STEM—science, technology, engineering and medicine—are facing record joblessness, with unemployment at more than twice pre-recession levels. The job market for law degree holders continues to erode, with only 55 percent of 2011 law graduates in full-time jobs.”
A stronger labor market is needed to ensure that the millennial generation does not become the lost generation. The first ten years are crucial because 70% of wage growth occurs during this time of a person’s life. As well as economic success, being in a stable situation is important for the younger members of the work force because according to Meg Jay, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in adult development,
“80% of life’s most significant events take place by age 35, making the 20s a ‘developmental sweet spot.’”
“Research shows that 20-something unemployment is associated with heavy drinking and depression in middle age—even after becoming regularly employed. Meanwhile, 20-somethings who are underemployed for just nine months tend to be more depressed and less motivated than their peers—even their unemployed peers.”
There are millions of young energetic workers waiting for the chance to use their skills. If they are not given the opportunity everyone will lose out as their skills deteriorate and untapped potential is lost. Our leaders must fix the jobs now, not only for our present, but for the sake of our future as well.